A six-storey, 166-unit non-market rental building may soon rise on two vacant lots on the old Vancity site at 1013-1025 Brunette Avenue, following a unanimous vote from Coquitlam city council Monday.
But while Coquitlam council was unanimous in their approval for the development, they also seemed largely in accord on the need for more action from the federal and provincial governments to support affordable housing.
The only reason the project is possible is because of Vancity “lowering the cost of the land” to make the arrangement work, said Coun. Brent Asmundson.
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“That’s a rare occasion,” Asmundson said. “Somebody has to subsidize this and they’re the ones doing the subsidy.”
Both Asmundson and Coun. Dennis Marsden underscored the need to get more B.C. Housing dollars in Coquitlam.
“There’s not enough money from the province,” Asmundson said.
The federal government could also stand to drop a little more cash on the table, Marsden added.
“They want all their money back,” Marsden said of support from Ottawa. “They’re not putting dime one into permanent housing. They give loans, they give mortgages.”
The plan for Brunette Avenue is offer 30 percent of the units in the building for 80 percent of median market rents, according to Catalyst Developments Society representative Robin Petri.
However, there is a degree of uncertainty, according to Petri. In addition to inflation and climbing interest rates, it’s difficult to predict other contributions or government grants that might increase affordability.
“We’re just in a very volatile time right now,” Petri said.
The project is also set to include ground level commercial space facing both Brunette and Nelson Street.
Waiting for the project has been somewhat frustrating for the community, according to Mayor Richard Stewart, adding that for several years the lot has been the “ugliest property on our most important street in Maillardville.”
The project includes 17 three-bedroom units as well as eight “Employment Living” units designed for small-scale business opportunities.
The development requires one more formal vote from council before construction can begin.
The development also includes nearly 8,000 square feet of outdoor space that’s set to include a playground and barbecue grills.
The project is set to include 184 parking stalls.
Cash on the table
If approved, the developer, Catalyst Community Development Society, would be on the hook for $2.13 million in development cost charges. However, TransLink and Metro Vancouver may waive some of those fees, according to Petri.
In the neighbourhood
The Brunette Avenue project is part of a larger plan – passed in 2014 and most recently updated in 2021 – to add about 6,000 residents to Maillardville in the span of two decades.
The city is attempting to turn Brunette Avenue into a commercial centre surrounded by a range of housing types within a walkable, revamped neighbourhood, according to the municipality’s Maillardville neighbourhood plan.
“. . . the Brunette Avenue Main Street has the potential to become much more, through redevelopment of existing properties, building on the existing commercial base and adding residential density,” according to the neighbourhood plan.